Review: Mac Miller's "Watching Movies With The Sound Off"

Review: Mac Miller's "Watching Movies With The Sound Off"

With the release of his sophomore album, Pittsburgh native Mac Miller goes up against some of hip-hop's heavyweights to shatter the public perception and prove that he is a talented lyricist.

June 18th might as well have been Christmas Day for hip-hop fans. Kanye West’s highly anticipated album Yeezus finally hit the shelves. Determined to go against one of the heavyweights of rap, J. Cole decided to move up his sophomore album Born Sinner to compete with West. While many will debate who has the better album between the two, Mac Miller’s sophomore album has undeservingly garnered less attention.

Miller made a name for himself several years ago with the release of his popular mixtapes , gaining a following from the party-heavy beats and whimsical rhymes. Miller’s first album Blue Slide Park debuted on the charts at the number one spot of Billboard’s 100 making it the first indie album to snag the number one spot since Tha Dogg Pound’s Dogg Food in 1995. Despite the commercial success of BSP, Miller’s debut album received mixed reviews and he was lambasted and accused of being one-dimensional. Determined to prove himself as a serious lyricist, Miller’s Watching Movies With The Sound Off goes toe to toe with Cole and West.

Picking up where his 2012 mixtape Macadelic left off, Miller continues his psychedelic journey through hip-hop with a more serious undertone to his lyrics. The first track, “The Star Room” sets the mood for the rest of the album to follow. Miller has never been afraid to be introspective and he shares with his fans the internal battle that he’s been going through since the fame:

"But me, I’m still trapped inside my head, I kinda feel like it’s a purgatory/ So polite and white but I got family who would murder for me/ Think I’m living in paradise, what would I have to worry about?/ Dealing with these demons, feel the pressure, find the perfect style"

Throughout WMWTSO, Miller dabbles into deeper territory as he contemplates the meaning of life but true to form, he’s not without the jokes (I’m pissed off like blind people looking for the restroom) or the misogynistic lines (bitch suck my dick before I slap you with it). His second album has a little something for everyone. Backpackers will be pleased with “S.D.S.” and “Red Dot Music.” Miller takes a break from rapping to channel his inner R&B singer on “Object In The Mirror” and “Youforia.” Miller goes back to his party-thumping roots with “Goosebumpz,” another bonus track.

No other song proves how much Miller has developed as an artist than “Suplexes Inside of Complexes and Duplexes” featuring none other than the notoriously elusive Jay Electronica. It’s hard for any rapper to match the wit of Jay Elec who once again raises the bar and then hops right over it as he spits about Stevie Wonder, Ecclesiastes, Wizard of Oz and Cinderella but Miller is more than up for the challenge:

"Take some Quaaludes, conversate with Jesus/ Batting practice with the motherfucking ghost of Babe Ruth/ Do as a saint do, turn painful to graceful/ The devil on my trails, I’m trying to find the Holy Grail/ And if Mars is the farthest that man has set his target/ Then I don’t know why I even started"

Miller has already let his fans into his world with the MTV reality show “Mac Miller and the Most Dope Family” that followed the Pittsburgh native and his crew around. Giving his fans even more of himself, Miller gets very personal with “REMember,” an ode to a fallen friend:

"It’s a dark science when your friends start dying/ Like how could he go, he was part lion/ Life goes on, tears all dried in/ Couple years are going by, bye then/ Can you please help me find my friend/ I’ll give you anything you need multiplied by ten"

While it’s customary for rappers to load their album up with enough guest appearances to rival the BET Hip-Hop Awards line-up, Miller keeps the features refreshingly light. Odd Future’s Earl Sweatshirt and Tyler, The Creator both trade bars with Miller, albeit on separate track. Ab-Soul jumps on the airy and catchy “Matches” while his fellow TDE counterpart ScHoolboy Q appears on “Gees.”  Fellow white rapper Action Bronson gets some shine on “Red Dot Music.”

Miller once again pulls double duty and puts on the producer’s hat of his alter ego Larry Fisherman. The 21-year-old handles most of the production on the album but he enlists the help of several others including Pharrelll Williams, Diplo, The Alchemist, Clams Casino, Flying Lotus and more. It’s clear Miller has grown just as much as a producer as he has as a rapper. Sonically, WMWTSO is a complex and challenging conglomerate of trippy, acid-laced sounds that mesh well with Miller’s laidback flow.

WMWTSO may seem like a far leap from his debut album, but with the several projects released in between the two albums, Miller has been on this path for a while. Accomplishing the goal of proving he’s more than a flash in a pan and can make more than party hits, Miller’s sophomore album WMWTSO holds its own against his colleagues that share the same release date.

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